1958 – 1967

Among the developments worth highlighting are the introduction of the free movement of capital in the Community, the creation of the European Investment Bank and the establishment of the European Social Fund.

In particular, the European Investment Bank was given the task of correcting any imbalances that might arise as a result of the entry into force of the European Common Market.

The importance of the European Investment Bank for the Italian ruling class can be seen in the appointment of Pietro Campilli, former Minister responsible for the Cassa del Mezzogiorno from 1953 to 1958, as President of the Bank. The appointment of Campilli seemed to establish a continuity between the activities of the Cassa and the decision to channel European funding into industrial development in southern Italy. Significantly, the first European Investment Bank loan contract was awarded to the petrochemical industrial site of Augusta in Eastern Sicily. In fact, between 1958 and 1973, Italy received more than half of the total volume of European Investment Bank loans.

The role of the European Investment Bank was in line with what could be seen as the second phase of the Cassa’s activity: after financing the construction of infrastructure such as roads, aqueducts and drainage facilities, the Cassa had extended the scope of its activity to the industrial sector. From 1957, following the guidelines of the Vanoni Plan, the new direction of investments started to produce results, even in the field of industrial policy.

However, the industrial sites, created thanks to the Cassa and the European Investment Bank, were found to have a serious limitation – they did not have a significant ‘multiplier effect’ on employment. The consequence of this was a significant flow of migrants from southern Italy to the industrialised north and to other countries of the European Community (between 1951 and 1968, 2.8 million people emigrated to the north of Italy or abroad). Moreover, two elements of the Treaties of Rome had a particularly negative impact on southern Italy: the customs union served to highlight the disparity between north and south while the Common Agricultural Policy penalised southern agriculture by undermining its production.

“Les gens, en Sicile, ont l’habitude de dire que tous les deux ou trois mois on assiste à un petit Marcinelle. C’est alors l’afflux des ouvriers des autres mines pour déblayer, les hurlements des femmes, les journalistes, les discours, puis la procession des morts qu’on promène à travers la ville ou le village, comme une procession de saints, et les enquêtes com­mencées – qui, fréquemment, s’enlisent” 1‘People in Sicily used to say that every two or three months there was a small Marcinelle. Then you would have workers from other mines helping to clear everything up, women screaming, journalists, speeches, and the procession of the dead through the town or village like a procession of saints, the investigations that started, and frequently got bogged down…” – Parlement Européen, Documents de séance 1962 – 1963, Document 133, Rapport intérimaire fait au nom de la commission sociale sur la nécessité de l’assainissement de l’industrie du soufre en Sicile, Rapporteur M. H. Vredeling, CES 1517, Historical Archives of the European Union


When the Customs Union came into force on 1 July 1968, the extent of the territorial imbalances in Italy came to the fore once again. It was already clear that the Italian industrial landscape was divided, with one sector open to competition, ready to enter the European market and capable of investing in new technologies, while the other was underdeveloped and focused almost exclusively on the internal market. Many of the latter industries, such as textiles, food production and construction, were based in southern Italy and, from the outset, were almost completely cut off from the benefits of the Common Market. During this period, the south became a source of cheap labour for the industrial powerhouse in the north. It should also be borne in mind that manpower from southern Italy made a decisive contribution to economic development in West Germany, Belgium, France and, outside the European Economic Community, Switzerland.

References   [ + ]

1.‘People in Sicily used to say that every two or three months there was a small Marcinelle. Then you would have workers from other mines helping to clear everything up, women screaming, journalists, speeches, and the procession of the dead through the town or village like a procession of saints, the investigations that started, and frequently got bogged down…” – Parlement Européen, Documents de séance 1962 – 1963, Document 133, Rapport intérimaire fait au nom de la commission sociale sur la nécessité de l’assainissement de l’industrie du soufre en Sicile, Rapporteur M. H. Vredeling, CES 1517, Historical Archives of the European Union